Vanilice (The Little Vanilla Cookies)

October 23, 2012


Author Notes: Every family has a heirloom. A jewel, a story, a secret... I have a book of recipes, compiled by my grandmothers and great-aunts and carefully perfected and written down by my mom. When I decided to cross the ocean forever I took the book with me. Nothing in the book is really a secret. We were never of a non-sharing kind. The food is to be enjoyed by everyone. The process of making the special foods is to be enjoyed by everyone. Happiness is to be shared. And one of the happiest and most treasured of our recipes is Vanilice. Vanilice (pronounced vah-ny-ly-tseh) are tiny Serbian cookies made for holidays and special occasions. Vanilice (which means “little vanillas”) are bite-sized walnut cookie sandwiches with jam and vanilla-scented powdered sugar. Vanilice hold such a special place in the Serbian cuisine and tradition that in good old days every self-respecting lady of the house was expected to make a very special jam, usually rose hip or apricot, to be used for Vanilice. There are many variations of the Vanilice recipe. Thousands of them. My grand-aunt Cica was the creator of our family's version; she was so proud of it that until the day she died, she supervised every family member in the process of making Vanilice. Including my grandmother.

P.S. Before you go to work, a couple of important things: 1) You must get the best quality lard, 2) you must be patient and let Vanilice sit in a cool dark place for at least one or two days before serving—not in the fridge, and 3) you must use good quality firm jam—unless you want your Vanilice running all over the place. Too many musts, but it will be worth it.
QueenSashy

Food52 Review: WHO: QueenSashy is a scientist and blogger who keeps her family's Eastern European recipes alive.
WHAT: Dainty sandwich cookies with a rich taste and a rich history.
HOW: Make tiny, tender cookies with ground walnuts and rendered lard, then use them to sandwich a dot of bright jam and roll it all in vanilla sugar.
WHY WE LOVE IT: Find leaf lard at your farmers' market or butcher shop—these little cookies are worth the effort to find it and render it down. These Vanilice are beautiful and delicate, crumbling into a tart finish of jam. While you can taste every ingredient on its own, they all come together for a very special holiday cookie.
The Editors

Makes: about 60 cookies

Ingredients

  • 200 grams confectioners' sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 300 grams lard (ideally leaf lard)
  • 250 grams granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 250 grams ground walnuts
  • 600 grams all-purpose flour
  • Rose hip or apricot jam
In This Recipe

Directions

  1. A couple of days before making the cookies, mix the confectioners' sugar with the vanilla bean in a small bowl with a tight lid. This is your vanilla sugar. Store in a dry place.
  2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the lard with the granulated sugar until creamy. Beat in the egg, egg yolks, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add the walnuts and flour and beat until a uniform dough forms. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat the oven to 325° F convection bake (or 350° regular bake). Place the dough on a work surface dusted with flour and roll it out to a 1/4-inch-thick round. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small round cookie cutter (I use 1-inch or quarter-size cutters), stamp out the cookies and arrange them one inch apart on the baking sheets.
  4. Bake for about 12 minutes, so that the rounds remain white. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack or flat surface to cool completely.
  5. Once the cookies are cool, take one cookie round at a time, spread the jam on it, and top with another cookie round.
  6. Roll each cookie sandwich generously in the vanilla sugar. Put the cookies into a tin box, and wait for one to two days before serving.

More Great Recipes:
Cookie|Grains|Egg|Bean|Vanilla|Walnut|Serves a Crowd|Make Ahead|Christmas|Thanksgiving|Fall|Holiday

Reviews (52) Questions (1)

52 Reviews

Nyasha January 26, 2017
I made these this year for my annual christmas cookie boxes, and they were my personal favorite. So delicate and short. Mmm! I used passionfruit jam (heated with a bit of gelatin to thicken it up - as it was quite runny out of the jar), and they were just phenomenal. Also...ran out of walnuts, so ended up using pecans for the other half of the called for nuts. Can't wait to try this again next year with only walnuts and a new jam! Thank you for sharing this gem. <3
 
Yianna December 10, 2016
Hello! I was wondering whether these cookies would keep well, if I do not dust them with sugar? Thanks very much for sharing your recipe!
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 10, 2016
Hi Yianna, yes, they keep well. I think you can go both ways. I usually dust the ones that will stay longer lightly, and then "re-dust" them before serving. But I think that either way should be fine.
 
Adriana A. December 22, 2015
will replacing regular egg yolk with hard-boiled seived egg yolk yield better texture or flavor?
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 22, 2015
Adriana, I am not sure. These are the cookies I grew up with and it never occurred to me to change the recipe. Perhaps someone from the community can chime in...
 
Nevena P. December 21, 2015
E ovo je stvarno za ponos :) Cijela Srbija prica o pobjedi vanilica :) Svaka cast na pobjedi i stvarno je divno vidjeti kako dio nase kuhinje i tradicije dopire i do ostatka svijeta. Zelim ti puno uspjeha u nekim daljim takmicenjima, i veliki pozdrav iz Novog Sada!
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 22, 2015
Hvala :)
 
Julia December 10, 2015
How long do these cookies last at room temperature once baked? Would freezing them or putting them in the fridge preserve them for longer? Also does this yield 60 sandwiches or 60 cookie halves (and therefore 30 sandwiches)? Thanks!!
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 11, 2015
Julia, it's 60 sandwiches. I would say definitely a couple of days to a week (but you might have to dust them again with powder sugar as the dusting tends to attract humidity). After a couple of days I usually put them in the fridge and then take out about two hours before serving.
 
Jessica K. December 13, 2015
I made this recipe to the letter - weighed all ingredients in grams (as is my usual habit), used lard, rolled out precisely to 1/4" (using a rolling pin specifically designed for rolling to 1/4"), and used an almost exactly 1" round cutter (actually a hair larger because they are metric),. The finished baked cookies when measured are maybe 1.1" in diameter and almost exactly 1/4" thick - and I ended up with *300* of them (i.e., 150 sandwiches, though I haven't filled them yet). I don't really mind, but I am not quite sure how my results could have ended up so far off those specified - though I did re-roll the scraps, which the recipe did not explicitly call for.
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 13, 2015
Jessica, I will be making them in a couple of days, will do the recount and will report back.
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 22, 2015
Hi Jessica, I just made my holiday batch of vanilice. I rolled the dough slightly thicker to about 3/8"" and used a 1.5" diameter cookie cutter. I also re-rolled the scraps. I had 140 cookies (i.e. 70 sandwiches).
 
Zeljko S. December 23, 2015
Julia this is a part of so called slow food. It isn't intended to be frozen or to use some artificial ingredients as someone is suggesting in order to get more from less. The philosophy of a good food is "Less is enough". <br />
 
Nan December 5, 2015
I found lard but not leaf lard is that okay <br />
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 5, 2015
Yes, absolutely...
 
Nan December 2, 2015
I would love to make this recipe but with butter, will the cookies still have the same taste & texture
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 2, 2015
Nan, taste wise, the cookies made with lard and butter will be close to same. I've made both many times, and they are both yummy. I like lard cookies better, because they are a bit richer, crispier and crumblier. But again, butter ones are not bad either, it's a matter of gray levels and I think that if you make them you will not regret it :)
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 30, 2015
Congrats on your win!
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 30, 2015
Thank you!
 
Maria November 26, 2015
They look so hard to make, Since I Don't Bake, But I sure want to try them for this Christmas Time. I know I can do them..happy thanksgiving 2015,<br />
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 26, 2015
Maria, yes you can bake :) I say go for it... Have a wonderful holiday!
 
Jeannine D. November 23, 2015
Quarters are pretty small
 
Jeannine D. November 23, 2015
Thx Annie, I guess I could use a shot glass as a cutter. That was my issue, I didn't think I had anything that small
 
Annie S. November 23, 2015
I have a comment about the size of these cookies. I am not sure they can be made larger. They are so tender and work well as a "bite". I think they would just crumble when you would eat them. Also they are very rich. This is just my opinion from making them and eating them ( so addictive!) all week.
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 23, 2015
Annie -- you are spot on. They are usually made to be bite sized, because of the richness.
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 23, 2015
... and thanks for pointing it out.
 
Jeannine D. November 23, 2015
I was thinking of making them larger, about 3" diameter. How long would I cook them?
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 23, 2015
I have not made them in 3 inches before. This is just a guess, but I would say start paying attention at about 14 minutes. The cookies should be pale, once you notice that they are about to start developing color, especially around the edges it is time to take them out.
 
anka November 22, 2015
Congratulations for being the finalist.
 
PistachioDoughnut November 22, 2015
I so wanted to test these out but because it had lard in it which being a vegetarian i do not consume, so I could not try it. But, I am going to replace it with regular fat and try it. Congrats for being the finalist. They look really good. I can't wait to try it with fig jam that I bought from Greece.
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 22, 2015
Thank you... Yes, you can definitely do that, I make them often with butter for my vegetarian friends. Love the idea of fig jam!
 
healthierkitchen November 20, 2015
What beauties!<br />
 
Annie S. November 20, 2015
Queen Sashy I am blessed to live in a wonderfully diverse community! We have several Eastern European markets. That is where I buy all of my jams and other special ingredients. I live outside of Chicago.
 
Annie S. November 20, 2015
I tested these for the contest and WOW! I had good leaf lard from Smoking Goose and found some lovely rose hip jam. The jam is the perfect filling.These beautiful little cookies just melt in your mouth. Thank you for sharing this special family recipe. Everyone I know is getting a tin of these perfect cookies! Good luck!
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 20, 2015
Annie, thank you for testing and the kind words! And wow, I am green with envy over your rose hip jam -- you are one lucky soul -- I have not been able to source it in a while and resorted to making my vanilice with apricot jam. And I am honored that you will be giving them away as presents. Thank you...
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 7, 2015
Have you ever tried a different filling such as chocolate, hazelnut or vanilla?
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 8, 2015
I have not tried other fillings, because I like the zing that comes with marmelade. But I often make cookies only, without the filling, my daughter likes to dip them in hot chocolate and I like to serve them after dinner with sweet wine.
 
sexyLAMBCHOPx November 9, 2015
Thank you for the feedback & good luck in the contest!
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy November 9, 2015
Thank you... Actually, I was just thinking about your question some more. If you would like to use chocolate filling, you could replace lemon juice and lemon zest with orange juice and orange zest, I think it would work really nicely.
 
Georgetown-DC December 12, 2012
What can be used as a substitute for refined lard?
 
Author Comment
QueenSashy December 13, 2012
You can substitute lard with butter, margarine or shortening. The cookies will be less flaky and the taste will be slightly different, but it will work. You might have to adjust the recipe, since butter and margarine are usually 80% fat / 20% water, shortening and lard are 100% fat.